SAN DIEGO — We Americans sure do love our freedom. Unfortunately, this includes the freedom to act like idiots. And lately, that particular freedom has been exercised enthusiastically by members of the anti-shutdown militia.
Apparently, Americans don't have to obey laws that they don't agree with. If you listen to talk radio or watch Fox News, you've probably heard about how the governors of all 50 states — both Democrats and Republicans — conspired to violate the Constitution with a blatant power grab.
You remember studying the Constitution in middle school. Who could forget the preamble, with its intent to "secure the blessings of liberty" ... to play golf, get haircuts, lounge on the beach or eat in restaurants?
I miss the strict constructionist Republicans. They talked a good game about interpreting the Constitution as written without getting creative. Where did they go?
These days, in our self-serve culture, everyone is a constitutional scholar. The duty of determining which laws are legitimate falls not on the courts but on us. It's up to citizens to decide whether to follow laws. We decide which executive orders — at the federal or state level — have the force of law.
This new order suits well the scofflaws previously known as law-and-order conservatives. These are the whiners who think the rules don't apply to them, just to everyone else. These are the folks who are dying to get back to making money, even if we move too quickly and more people die. These are the folks who think the only laws worth following are the ones they agree with.
In California, which is inching toward reopening, we actually have county sheriffs who must have been absent the day they taught "law enforcement" at the academy. Eager to side with the anti-shutdown mob, perhaps with an eye toward reelection, these sworn officers recently declared that they will no longer enforce the March 19 shutdown order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
What a splendid example they're setting. This is a spectacle we'll remember the next time these local sheriffs — who are, because they have to run for office, part cop and part politician — want to tell the rest of us that we have a moral obligation to follow other laws, even if we don't consider them valid.
Some of the renegades even quote the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. about how we all have a moral responsibility to defy an immoral law.
Of course, they always forget that King wrote those words from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1960s. The good reverend went to jail for that principle, just as Henry David Thoreau did a century earlier when he refused to pay the Massachusetts poll tax to protest The U.S.-Mexican War. Civil disobedience was never intended to be a "get out of jail free" card.
This isn't just some harmless academic debate. Idiocy has consequences. Some people are so stubborn, and so self-centered, that their pride won't let them accept the obvious:
When everyone thinks they're an expert on infectious diseases because they took biology in high school, you're going to see a lot more spreading of those diseases. When everyone thinks they're a doctor because they never miss an episode of "Chicago Med," we're going to wind up with a lot of sick people.
That's where we are.
Pro-business conservatives are touting Georgia as a success story because, a month after reopening much of its economy, the state has not experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases. In fact, the curve has flattened.
Those folks aren't as eager to talk about states like Texas and North Carolina, where the number of coronavirus cases is increasing. That happens when people don't wear masks or maintain social distance.
Nor will you hear folks on the right talk about Arkansas, where a recent high school pool party that "everybody thought was harmless" — as Gov. Asa Hutchinson put it — has fueled what the governor acknowledges is now a second peak of coronavirus cases in the state. Again, no masks and no social distance. Going forward, Hutchinson is urging Arkansans to be safe and "disciplined" at the same time.
Speaking of idiots. Discipline? If those who chomped at the bit to break out of quarantine knew anything about discipline, they would not have busted down the barricades to begin with. They'd still be watching Netflix and ordering takeout.
Get ready for "Coronavirus, The Sequel." Just when you thought it was safe to leave the house, it's not. Because this was never about the government. It's always been about the individual. And wherever you go, there you are.
Ruben Navarrette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.